© Guardian file photo
Dr. Heather Morrison
Two Islanders have died as a result of the H1N1 flu strain in Prince Edward Island, health officials confirmed Wednesday.
P.E.I.’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison says both individuals were 60 years of age or older and had other existing medical conditions.
Despite these deaths, Morrison said this year has been typical in the number of lab-confirmed flu cases presenting in P.E.I.
But what is unusual this year is the number of younger people contracting the virus.
“It has been different in that it tends to affect more the 20- to 60-year-old range age group as opposed to some years where you see it more in the elderly,” Morrison said.
“The other difference is this year, as compared to, for instance, last year, the predominant strain has been more H1N1.”
The two confirmed flu-related in P.E.I. deaths were caused by the H1N1 virus.
But Morrison stressed there are deaths caused by influenza every year in the province.
“We feel badly anytime there is a death or hospitalization related to influenza, of course, but we expect that there are influenza-related deaths often every year.”
Since 2009, there have been between one and four deaths in P.E.I. caused by the flu.
So far this year, the number of Islanders hospitalized with the H1N1 flu has stands at 51.
Again, Morrison said this falls within the normal seasonal range. Three of the last four years there have been over 50 hospitalizations related to the flu.
But the ages of those hospitalized are also younger than the norm. The median age of Islanders hospitalized this year as a result of influenza is in the 40s.
“Overall the deaths and hospitalizations in Canada this year are actually not as high as they were in the previous year,” Morrison commented.
She also anticipates, based on what is happening in other provinces, there will be a decrease in the amount of influenza in the province within the next two weeks.
She added H1N1 has been circulating for the last number of years and has been covered within the three strains of flu included in the yearly flu vaccine.
“I’m always concerned about influenza, no matter what age group it is affecting,” Morrison said.
“That’s why we really talk about messages of washing your hands often, coughing into your sleeve, staying home if you are sick. And certainly we’re seeing in P.E.I., in terms of what ages it’s targeting, a similar pattern of what has been seen across the rest of the country.”
In 2009, the H1N1, or swine flu, caused widespread illness and hundreds of deaths around the world. The World Health Organization to declared it a pandemic.
Since then, it has continued to circulate across the numerous countries.
At least a dozen deaths have been blamed on this flu strain so far this year in Canada.